Cooperative children interact positively with the rest of the world. They’re polite, they listen to instructions, and they have happy and healthy relationships with their families, friends, and teachers. Every parent wants a cooperative child, but it isn’t as simple as just telling your kids what to do.
If your child attends our Montessori school in Leesburg, you may have noticed that the students are cooperative in our classroom. If your child seems like an angel in our classroom but much more obstinate under your care, don’t chalk it up to bad parenting. Preschool classrooms are designed to promote cooperation, and if you would like to take some of that magic home with you, here are some tips for how we help our students become more cooperative.
Whenever you see your child interacting positively with others, but sure to praise them. If your little one is going through a rebellious phase, these moments may feel few and far between, but they remember what gets them attention and then they behave accordingly.
A big reason why children behave so well in school is because they know what to expect. We rarely stray from our routine, and our students always know what we expect of them. This makes it easy for them to learn what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. After a while, they typically don’t need to be reminded. Recreating this structure at home can create the same effect.
Still to routines as much as you can. For some families, this might mean simply having a routine around waking up and going to bed, but even just focusing on one area of life can have benefits. Stick to a few house rules at first and see how they track.
A wonderful thing that our children teach us is that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. If your child is refusing to do something, you don’t have to punish them — you can respond by making it a game. For example, if your child refuses to change into their pajamas, make it a fashion show, using a silly voice. This will make it easier for you to accomplish the task while making it a fun experience for your child.
Give Advanced Notice
This pro-tip from the preschool classroom can help prevent meltdowns and temper tantrums when you’re switching gears (for example, when it’s time to turn off the TV for dinner or leave a friend’s house). If your child regularly throws a fit when you need to switch gears, give them a five-minute warning before the transition. For example, if you need to leave the house at 8:30, warn your child at 8:15 that they need to stop playing and put away their toys. You may benefit from setting a timer so they know when their time is up.
Let Them Figure It Out
A lot of social skills are developed in the wild. You won’t always be there to swoop in every time your child has a conflict with a peer, so don’t run to intervene every time they get in a scuffle (unless they are hitting each other). Let your child figure out how to cooperate with others on their own, and they will develop skills that will last a lifetime.
Offer Structured Choices
If you’re struggling to get your child to cooperate, offering them a choice may be more effective than punishment because it allows them to suffer natural consequences to their actions. For example, if they are refusing to sit down for dinner, you can offer them a choice: sit down and get dessert, or don’t sit and don’t get dessert. They won’t necessarily make the right choice, but once they realize the consequences, they will catch on. Just make sure that the option you want them to choose is more attractive than the alternative.
Words matter, and how you phrase requests to your child has a large psychological impact. If you ask them to do something under the assumption that you will meet resistance, it’s more likely that your child will respond to that exactly as you suspect. In contrast, if you make a statement that assumes your child will behave, most children will step up to the plate the majority of the time.
For example, don’t say, “If you put away your toys, then we will go to the park.” Say, “When you put your toys away, we will go to the park.” This subtle shift can be effective towards helping your child become more cooperative.
Give Them Freedom
These days, children are constantly supervised, which means that they expect to be entertained more than previous generations. Let your child’s imagination go wild by allowing them to go play independently instead of trying to dictate how they spend all of their time. Giving them the freedom to play independently helps them to behave more cooperatively on their own.
Children are not always cooperative, but setting them up for success with these tips can be very empowering. If you’re looking for a Montessori preschool in Leesburg, we would love to help. Contact Lake Montessori School to schedule a tour today.